Business directories, of one kind or another, have been around for a long time. One of them is, perhaps surprisingly, franchised. Founded by two former salesmen, Harris Anderson of Seattle and Matt Dutton of Portland, Contacts Influential is now found in 32 metropolitan areas of the United States.
Mr. Dutton, who used to sell photocopiers, and Mr. Anderson, an insurance salesman, found it difficult to get up-to-date business information vital for them as salesmen. They found they were making too many cold calls on the wrong people. What they wanted was better marketing information.
The solution was to put together their own marketing book. Their first directory - for Seattle - appeared in 1961, followed a year later by the Portland book.
To broaden their distribution base, the partners turned to the franchise idea around 1971. Not too long after, they were on their way to new successes.
The only franchise operation in the directory publishing field, the book is leased to businessmen in cities from California to Washington, D.C., by 22 franchise holders. Each franchisee has invested $100,000 for the sole territorial right to represent the directory.
In an unusual aspect, Anderson-Dutton franchisees turn over none of that initial $100,000 to the parent firm. Instead, the money is used to meet first-year start-up costs. Dutton, president of the firm (Anderson is chairman and publisher), explained that ''earnings of the company come one-half from (selling) direct-mail lists we compile from the directories, and from other computer-oriented information we sell.'' The other half comes from royalties, once an area directory has been compiled and distributed.
The Anderson-Dutton directory compiles marketing information on industry, commerce, the professions, and government agencies for specified areas in 12 states, the District of Columbia, and four Canadian cities. This year the firm is looking to expand to Boston and Miami. The present goal is to enter two or three new areas each year.
In terms of businesses listed (1.5 million), Contacts Influential is rated third among mailing list compilers, after the No. 1 National Business Lists, Chicago, and Dun & Bradstreet, New York.
Businessmen who lease the directories also have available to them market planning services, US and Canadian mailing lists of any designated category chosen by the client, market and territory analysis, and specific market studies.
Dutton and Anderson say businesses change so fast they have to update the directories monthly. By the end of a year ''changes in business ownerships, new business formations, and changes in key personnel, sometimes up to 50 percent, outdate the book.''
All update material from every area is sent to Portland, the headquarters, where it is stored in the company computer. It is then put on magnetic tape for typesetting in Phoenix, Ariz. Printing, binding, and shipping of all directories is done in Lincoln, Neb.